________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover Spring Begins in March.

Jean Little.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada, 1966/2008.
179 pp., pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-0-14-316948-2.

Subject Headings:
Frustration-Juvenile fiction.
Sisters-Juvenile fiction.
Grandmothers-Juvenile fiction
.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

*** /4

excerpt:

“We’re reading Anne of Ingleside,” Meg interrupted. She heard the stand–offishness in her own voice but she could not help it. Grandma was to blame. She was acting like a guest again, hesitating in the doorway, twisting her ring around and around on her finger.

“If you’d rather wait . . .” Grandma repeated hopelessly. “No,” Meg said quickly, turning her back and taking a running leap into bed. “The book’s there on the dresser. Mother left the place marked.”

The moment Grandma began, Meg realized that she had forgotten the way her grandmother read. Mother skimmed through the story. Sometimes her tongue tripped over the words which came tumbling out of her mouth. When the book grew particularly exciting, Mother sometimes could not resist skipping. Meg did not want her mother to change her manner of reading. It was fun to fly through books with Mother. But Grandma read properly. Grandma took time for every word. Grandma somehow became Anne and Gilbert and Walter and Susan Baker and Aunt Mary Maria, each in turn. It was like being at a play. Meg forgot all about being enemies as she listened. She forgot Grandma entirely and lived, for a moment, in a house on Prince Edward Island.

Meg is having a difficult time. Her parents have promised her a room of her own at her birthday when her sister moves. However, her maternal grandmother moves in with Meg’s family when her living arrangements change, and Meg’s aunt, whom Grandmother Kent is living with, gets married and moves away. Meg is also having a rough time at school. She tries but finds it difficult to stay focused and is getting further and further behind. Meg feels that everyone is against her, and her attitude is getting worse. Her mother understands, but dealing with Meg just gets more difficult.

    Meg’s grandmother moves in, and Meg doesn’t get a room to herself. Meg is angry. It gets worse when her grandmother insists on calling her by her official name of Margaret. Charlotte, Meg’s best friend, comes over, and they play a game in which they are challenged to do something but can’t be seen or caught. The challenge is to take something out of her grandmother’s room. Meg steals her grandmother’s diary from when she was a young girl. In the act, she upends boxes of puzzle pieces and gets caught. Her punishment is to work with her grandmother and put the puzzles together. Through this together time and the diary, Meg begins to understand and appreciate her grandmother.

     When Meg’s report card is dismal and it is likely that she will be kept back, Meg is desolate. Her sister, Sally, steps up and, with a neighbourhood friend, tutors Meg so she starts to see some success. The other major challenge for Meg is to ask for a birthday gift now that she isn’t getting a room of her own. She decides to ask for a dog, similar to the dog that Sally has. Meg’s dog, which she names Rusty, isn’t the puppy she has wanted but a five-month-old who is energetic with a mind of his own. Only her grandmother seems to realize that the dog is just what Meg needs.

     There are several themes running throughout the novel, including the story of a girl who is the youngest in the family and who struggles to belong, the student who struggles in school because she can’t seem to focus and work fast enough on her work, the friend who gets into trouble with her best friend, and the granddaughter who comes to understand a grandmother and the happiness that can come from an intergenerational living arrangement. Meg comes to realize the value and love of family from her parents, her grandmother and her siblings. The characters are true to life. The dialogue is realistic, and the plot is developed in an interesting and sequential way. Language is appropriate for the intended age group.

     The book is divided into 18 chapters. The great variety in sentence type and length makes the novel an interesting read. It would appeal to a variety of readers including animal lovers and realistic fiction fans. It would be a good addition to school, public and personal libraries.

Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is an educator and teacher librarian from Shellbrook, SK. She is presently employed by Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) working in the areas of faculty training and program development.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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